Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 2

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Yesterday had some big surprises as Australia searched their hearts and bookcases, will today be the same?

A reminder that this is only Heat 2, so you might see some of your favourites missing today. Don’t worry, over the week you’ll have a chance to vote for all of your favourites in their respective heats.

Today’s list includes Nobel, Pulitzer, Orange and Miles Franklin Prize-Winners!

Vote now to see them advance to the final round of voting next week and have the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 1

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

We’ve taken your nominations and today is the day to put your votes forward. You can vote for as many novelists as you like.

A reminder that this is only Heat 1, so you might see some of your favourites missing today. Don’t worry, over the next 5 days you’ll have a chance to vote for all of your favourites in their respective heats.

Today we have brilliant bestsellers, acclaimed award-winners and exciting newbies! Vote now to see them advance to the final round of voting next week and have the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Joanna Trollope on Jane Austen

The Austen Project
Sense & Sensibility
A Q&A with Joanna Trollope

1. Sense & Sensibility is launching the Austen Project –  what was it about the idea of a modern re-telling of Jane Austen’s novel that caught your imagination?

My first – and I have to say, last – reaction when the idea of updating those novels was put to me, was: how brilliant! Jane Austen’s preoccupations – romance, money and class – are timeless, which is one of the main reasons that puts her at the head of the much beloved, as well as classic, category. She is also completely serious about any character or emotion that requires respect, while at the same time displaying a wonderful capacity for mockery and spot-on censure for folly and unkindness in any form. And so, while determined that any novel I wrote would be unquestionably a tribute to her genius, and in no way an imitation, I could immediately see that her characters and her narrative would translate absolutely seamlessly to 2013 – which, indeed, they have.

2. The characters that Austen creates are timeless but still, transferring them to current times must have been an enthralling task. Did you find the presence of an existing plot and characters liberating or limiting?

The whole process was a liberation. The characters almost felt that they were transferring themselves to recognisable modern people with very little help from me, so vivid are they. And being freed from the need to invent a theme, a narrative or a cast list for myself, I felt little short of exhilarated the whole time. Of course there were elements that had to be modernised since the characters in the original, a lot of them living on the proceeds of the slave trade (although that is never mentioned as it would have been such a contemporary commonplace) have the kind of leisure that is absolutely unthinkable nowadays. And the outrages – Willoughby’s impregnating of Eliza, say – have to be updated to convey the same level of shock. But these changes were really details in what was an extraordinarily engaging project.

3. In Chapter 5 Belle says: ‘Then he’d be at complete odds with my Marianne. And me for that matter. We believe in the love of a life, you see.’ Marianne really is the living embodiment of the sensibility that was so fashionable in the eighteenth century. How did you manage to update her romantic fervour and make her so likeable?

The thing is that Marianne is likeable, as well as close to impossible, in the original. We know that by the time Jane Austen came to write Sense and Sensibility, her own appreciation of the qualities of level-headedness that Elinor displays far outweighed the current philosophical vogue for sensibility. But Marianne is as much a child of her times – 1809 – as she is, with a slightly different modern interpretation, of ours. It’s just that we have a different way of describing, and of seeing, the same utter belief in emotional self-indulgence and the prioritising of individualism, as she does. What she would call sensibility, we recognise as entitlement. Her belief in finding the love of her life equates to our desire for a soulmate. She may exhibit an exasperating level of self-involvement which is very recognisable today, but she is also warm and welcoming and sincere in her attachments. And she loves her sister, Elinor, she really does. We can all look round our circles of friends and see people in it who are ‘Mariannes’ – maddeningly self-absorbed, and emotional, but also sweet and responsive and sympathetic. Jane Austen’s Marianne is a very modern girl, with all the plusses and minuses that that entails.

4. Sense and Sensibility is so much about how we declare our love, and how the public and private versions of love exist. How did you find writing this interplay? Do you think public declarations through social media such as Facebook and Twitter have changed our modern view on love?

I would guess that no amount of social media actually changes the way people feel, even if it might have enabled, rather than actually changed, the way they express those feelings. The desire to be loveable, and popular, and fancied is as old and as enduring as humanity is itself, and I would guess that the number of modern girls pressured by their peers or their own insecurities into making fools of themselves on Facebook and by Instagram, is exactly the same as it was before these alarmingly public fora existed. You can imagine very easily, can’t you, the Steele sisters taking avidly to Twitter! And I think the fact that I could insert a little modern media so effortlessly into Jane Austen’s narrative is the only proof you need that humanity doesn’t change, even if codes of conduct do!

5. Edward Ferrars is described in Chapter 2 as the ‘redeeming attribute’ of the Ferrars clan. But he has little direction and behaves submissively, at first, towards Lucy’s insistence that they are an item, in contrast to Elinor’s composure and intelligence. Did you find it hard when writing to see them as an equal match and can readers be fully satisfied that Elinor is to marry him at the end?

Oddly enough, I thought that Edward Ferrars was one of the most modern characters in the whole book – or, at least, one of the most recognisable as modern. He has had a bullied and neglected childhood, despite material comfort, and is clearly what we would now diagnose as a mild depressive by nature. There is an unquestioned sweetness in his disposition, but his upbringing – thrusting new money and ambition – is not in the least interested in sweetness, but only in success. His overbearing mother has accustomed him to obeying bossy women, and his sweetness makes him anxious to oblige. So he is easy prey, as a lonely teenager whose family have written him off as hopeless, for a gold digger like Lucy Steele. And Elinor, interestingly, for all her intelligence and self control, is the family missionary. She has appointed herself the Sensible one, the Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous, whose task it is to steer her chaotic little family ship to a safe harbour. If she didn’t like sorting volatile people, she would not be so unbelievably patient with her mother and sisters. Sorting them all is her chosen role – so Edward Ferrars is a natural choice for her. He may not be completely worthy, but he is what she wants.

6. The novel’s themes of status and money imply that some things are never out of date and that men with wealth and power will always be more attractive to women. Would you agree and do you see this ever changing?

I entirely agree. In fact, I would go further and say it’s mainly money that gives both power and sex appeal – and of course, the latter is a form of the former. Looking back at history, emperors, statesmen, successful industrialists, soldiers and entrepreneurs may not have made a universal success of their private lives, but they have never not taken what they wanted – or what they thought they wanted! And to look at the present day, it is only money that stops Fifty Shades of Grey from being a novel about sexual abuse – and I see that the new Sylvia Day will feature ‘a young billionaire’ hero … Now, I wonder why that should be?!

7. What would you like readers to take away from this novel?

I would love readers to take away several things. First, obviously, a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Secondly, a sense of having been in the company of people they can both recognise and believe in. But thirdly, and most importantly, I would like them to feel a renewed and enormous admiration for Jane Austen, and a strong desire either to re-read the original, or actually, to read it for the first time.

8. Do you tend to read when you are writing a novel and, if so, what?

I read all the time … And what I read is not particularly deliberate, but more often than not, whatever is next on the pile of books waiting to be read because I have been asked to read them or am longing to, anyway! This year, one of my huge reading joys was the entire shortlist for the Womens’ Prize for Fiction – six dazzling books. I can’t think when there has been a stronger shortlist – everyone a winner in my view!

9. Did you re-read Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and if so, did you refer to it as you wrote or did you prefer to keep a distance between you and the text?

I read and re-read it exhaustively, to the point of cannibalising several paperbacks of it to work out the scenes I was going to use, and where I would have to add scenes to bring the narrative circumstances up to date. So I ended up with a tattered re-configured sequence of the original, heavily highlighted. I have left one line of the original in the updated version – I wonder if you can find it?

10. As a hugely successful, bestselling novelist, would you have any guidance or advice for young writers starting out today?

The first thing I would say is that there is plenty of time. You can be too young to write – simply because you haven’t had time to live enough – but you can hardly be too old. Think of the wonderful P.D. James, in the bestseller lists at 94! I remain of the opinion that most people write better after 35 than before, for that very reason. So, don’t be in a hurry! And while you are waiting, train your powers of observation, because that is the hallmark of all successful novelists. Maybe even keep a notebook – not a diary, but a notebook you have with you in which you can record ideas or observations, or snatches of a conversation you overhear, or scraps of dialogue. No amount of noticing of other people is ever, ever wasted for a writer … Good luck!


Joanna Trollope, OBE, is the international bestselling author of 30 novels and has written historical fiction, contemporary fiction and non-fiction. When Joanna considers what has happened to her career in the last ten years, she often thinks, as her friend Jilly Cooper once said, ‘You’d believe it, wouldn’t you, if it happened to someone else‘.

Paullina Simons, author of Bellagrand, The Bronze Horseman and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

bellagrandThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Paullina Simons

author of Bellagrand, The Bronze Horseman, Tully and more, answers

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Bellagrand is a story of a passionate, troubled love affair between Harry and Gina, who are the parents of Alexander, my hero in The Bronze Horseman books. Writing about them allowed me to immerse myself again in one of my favorite types of fiction: a personal and emotional story of real people against the backdrop of transformative historical events such as World War I and the Russian Revolution.
There is another reason: I love going back to the world of Tatiana and Alexander. I sometimes hear from my readers that they have trouble letting go of my characters. To them I say, tell me about it.

Click here to buy Bellagrand from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Best: My new renovated house.
Worst: Living in our unfinished basement for three months while the house was being renovated. I have a lifelong healthy respect (okay, dread fear) of basements. My husband and kids, of course, love the cave-like atmosphere—and there is my life in a nutshell.
One moment stands out. For Thanksgiving last year I cooked the family dinner on a stove set up in the wreckage of my demolished-to-studs kitchen. We ate on a folding table in the cold basement. Was that the best or the worst? The answer is yes.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

“Oh, what a lucky man he was.” (Emerson, Lake and Palmer)

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I am a delight to live with. I’m hardly ever home. I spend my days in my studio, with my laptop, my piano, and my coffee machine. Oh, and I like to pretend that I defy all stereotypes.

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I don’t think in terms of the marketplace, exactly. More in terms of what my readers and I like best. Since I try to write the kind of books that I myself prefer to read, I hope that my readers will want to read the books I like to write.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

The Summer Garden, for the lifelong soul of a marriage.
A Song in the Daylight, for the unfathomable human heart (both of which make great Christmas gifts, by the way).
East of Eden, for the Pandora’s box of good and evil.
Macbeth, because it has the best lines.
The Bible, for everything under the sun.

Paullina, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Bellagrand from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

When Someday, Someday Maybe landed on my desk, I opened it with apprehension. According to the cover quote from Diane Keaton, the book from the star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood promised to be “warm and funny, charming and smart”, but a book about a twenty-something wannabe actress trying to make it in the nineties sounded like, at best, a poorly disguised memoir or, at worst, a misguided attempt at leveraging on a TV star’s fame to push a bad chicklit..

WRONG!

The woman we fell in love with in Bad Santa has written an entertaining, authentic, engaging read that I loved from beginning to end. Rather than labouring through the read, I mourned the last page, reluctant to leave the protagonist’s messy, dramatic and hopeful world.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is the story of Franny Banks, an unemployed actress who has six months left trying to make it in New York  until her self-imposed deadline, after which she will move to Chicago, take up a ‘normal’ job and marry her high school sweetheart.

Lauren Graham-MTO-008845Despite screwing up her monologue in her acting class showcase, she finally manages to land an agent, and it seems she might achieve her goal –  she’s getting auditions and callbacks, she’s able to pay her rent and the cute, talented guy from class is showing interest. But in the acting world, nothing is as it seems, and soon Franny is jobless, penniless and rudderless, wondering how she can make the rent and if she’s been fooling herself all along.

I loved following Franny’s story and could completely empathise with her; I saw myself in Franny Banks, from her wild curly hair to her addiction to bad men and fad diets. Franny makes bad, totally realistic choices but after the inevitable fall out, picks herself up, dusts herself off and has at it again.

It is this spunk, and the wit and charm with which her story is told, that endeared me to Franny and made me root for her right until the end, which, while not perfectly wrapped up, left me hopeful that she’d be alright. I loved her, and I loved this book.

Read more about Someday, Someday, Maybe here


There are few things in the world that Romance Specialist Haylee Nash loves more than a quiet reading giggle – you know, that silent shoulder-shake you get while reading a particularly funny part of a book when in a public place. Haylee would like to thank Lauren Graham for giving her several of these while taking public transport home after a particularly long day at work. If you’re ever in Sydney, Lauren, Haylee would like to buy you a sparkling wine.

Love is in the air – an open letter from Mandy Magro

Bestselling author of rural romance Mandy Magro writes an open letter about the importance of love, in fiction and in everyday life

Let me begin by saying I love writing about love…no, actually, I’m obsessed with it! I write about it, I read about it, I watch it, and I live it! I’m a firm believer in true love, and that there is a soulmate out there for each and every one of us. So if you haven’t found him or her yet, or your busy lifestyle isn’t allowing you time to be romantic with your soulmate…don’t give up! Continue reading

IN THE NEWS: Jackie Collins says teens must reclaim the pleasures of ‘almost’

Author: Jackie CollinsWhen a teenage Jackie Collins was seduced by Marlon Brando at a party, little did she know the experience would come in handy years later while writing her first YA novel…

New York Times bestselling author Jackie Collins was recently in Australia promoting her new novel, Confessions of a Wild Child, which tells the story of the teen years of her much loved character Lucky Santangelo. Jackie had hoped her publisher would promote the novel as a novel for teens. But Jackie’s publisher decided her fanbase would feel left out if they did so. And besides, they knew, just as Jackie probably did, that teens had been borrowing/stealing their mothers’ copies of her books since 1968 when her first novel, The World is Full of Married Men set tongues wagging and would read Confessions of a Wild Child whether it was published as a young adult novel or not.

Having read Confessions of a Wild Child I can see why Jackie would want young girls in particular to read it. Confessions is set in a world outside time, this could be the 1960s, the 90s or now and Jackie has gone to great trouble to write a very fast moving story in which her heroine, fifteen year old Lucky, learns very quickly about love, lust, boys, men, friendship, sex, betrayal and the value of ‘almost’.

The driver for Lucky is personal freedom and much of that is expressed in a desire to have as much fun as a young girl can have. But there are lessons along the way, and having been instructed in the pleasures of ‘almost’ by her more experienced friend, Olympia, (‘almost’ meaning kissing, fondling, touching and everything one can do with a cute guy without doing ‘it’) Lucky navigates her way through adventure after adventure fairly unscathed. The same cannot be said of Olympia, who abandons the wise course of ‘almost’ and repeatedly gets Lucky into trouble.

In a world where teens carry iPhones with unlimited access to the Internet, i.e. porn, Jackie’s hope that a novel like Confessions of a Wild Child might serve as some sort of antidote to the sexualisation of youth may seem a little naive considering the sheer size of the challenge. But then I couldn’t help but feel that the novel, by advocating the pleasures of ‘almost’, might get some readers thinking about what they are missing out on, and may encourage a handful to take the tourist route to adulthood.

Click here for Confessions of a Wild Child

INTERVIEW: Thanks wholly to Caroline Baum’s decision to go on holiday there was a vacant seat opposite Jackie Collins in an interview which was scheduled to be filmed for Caroline’s Bookshots. When Caroline asked me to take her place she did not have to ask twice. Here is my interview with Jackie Collins (and yes, I ask her about her fling with Marlon Brando):

Click here for more deatils or to buy Confessions of a Wild ChildConfessions of a Wild Child

Lucky Santangelo is a powerful and charismatic woman. But how did she become the woman she is today?

Many people have asked, and in Confessions of a Wild Child we discover the teenage Lucky, and follow her on her trip to discover boys, love and how she fought her father, the infamous Gino Santangelo, to forge her own individual and strong road to success.

Confessions of a Wild Child takes you on a trip and navigates the teenage years of a wild child who will eventually rule an empire. Even at 15 Lucky follows her own path and it’s a crazy ride, taking the reader from a strict girls’ school in Switzerland to an idyllic Greek island, a Bel Air estate, a New York penthouse, and a shuttered villa in the South of France. Nobody can control Lucky. She knows what she wants and she goes for it with no holds barred. Lucky at 15 – a true revelation.

Buy Confessions of a Wild Child from Booktopia before November 30th 2013 for your chance to win an incredible backlist prize pack – 29 books all signed by Jackie Collins herself! Woo! 

What a Great PRIZE!

2013 Romance Writers of Australia Conference: Top 10 moments

Recently our Romance Specialist Haylee Nash flew the flag for Booktopia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle. These are her stories.

dancing up a stormFor those of you who have never been to a Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Conference, or indeed any kind of romance conference, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a modestly sized room, filled with women. Hundreds of women. Each of these women are writers, romance writers, who spend their day behind a computer (if they’re lucky enough to be able to live from their writing) and in the rest of society are often derided for writing “those books”. So it’s fair to say that these women don’t often get the pleasure of speaking about romance, certainly not with fellow enthusiasts. Now to this joyous scene add oodles of champagne, a nautical theme and a conference venue that  is far enough away from most attendees to require staying at the hotel, sans husbands, significant others, kids, pets or any other responsibilities. Into this melee I walked, and, rather than wincing at the noise and leavig, I grabbed a champagne and, with stupidly big grin on my face, entered the fray. Continue reading

Dianne Blacklock answers Romance at Booktopia’s ‘Firsts’

Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction, and of new release The Best Man, Dianne Blacklock answers Romance at Booktopia’s ‘firsts’.

1. Who was your first crush?
Hutch, the blond one from the TV show, Starsky and Hutch. I was almost debilitatingly obsessed. Is there anything more overwhelming than those adolescent crushes? Continue reading

‘The Returned’ by Jason Mott – a sneak peek

Romance Specialist Haylee Nash steps a little outside her genre to give us a sneak peak at the Next Big Thing, The Returned by Jason Mott.

Eighteen months ago I received an urgent email from a chief editor from the New York office asking me and my publishing colleagues to quickly read a manuscript that they were considering bidding on. By quickly, they meant overnight. They had to make their bid by morning. Despite having dinner plans, I read what I could. I was amazed. And excited – very excited. This debut novelist had managed to grab me from the first, not just with his unique concept and plot, but with the sheer beauty of his writing. I emailed back with ‘Make the bid, we’ll publish it’.

Fast forward and I’m now on the other side of the side of the fence, selling books rather than publishing them, and I’m even more excited about the book I read then. That book was The Returned by Jason Mott, and since it was bought at auction, the TV rights have been bought and The Returned will be gracing our TV screens in 2014 as ‘Resurrection’, starring Omar Epps and Kurtwood Smith.

Rather than write a review, I’m going to let Jason Mott himself tell you about it. Other than that, all I’ll say is read it. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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